By STEVE COHEN
One thing you can count on at a baseball game: at one point or another someone is always way out in left field.
It happened last year on Mother's Day in, maybe not so surprisingly, California. A patron at a Major League game filed a lawsuit, alleging sex discrimination because he did not receive a tote bag given to women as a promotional item for turning out at the ballpark.
With Father's Day upon us and the West Virginia Power playing at home, let's hope no one is so far out. The team may want to consider a tactic of another minor league franchise, the Altoona Curve.
Our Keystone State neighbor is staging a Frivolous Lawsuit promotion to poke fun at the west coast litigation. The West Virginia Power could, for example:
* Cover itself by giving any Fathers' Day promotional item to the first woman through the turnstile.
* Serve coffee at a lukewarm temperature only, so fans won't burn themselves.
* Put warning labels on ballpark franks to protect the team from obesity lawsuits.
During the seventh inning stretch, for instance, there could also be a special salute to the most frivolous lawsuits. West Virginia has some humdingers. Remember the Sissonville woman who sued her daughter's school because of a playground splinter?
In Arizona, a popular annual softball tournament was canceled when a player broke his ankle sliding into third base and sued the city-owned sports complex. (Arizona Daily Sun, September 15, 2003)
Then, there's the Florida father who sued a youth baseball league because his son was told he'd made the league's all-star team when he hadn't. As a result of the lawsuit costs, the future of the baseball league was threatened the following year. (Liability Week, June 29, 1998)
This serious side to all this was expressed in a recent newspaper editorial from a daily in our own state's capital city: Our "job prospects unquestionably have been weakened by the creation of an overly litigious atmosphere ...," said the opinion piece.
Granted, some may feel this clever fun at the Power game on Father's Day is going a little bit too far. But as Todd Parnell, General Manager of Altoona said of such promotions, "if fans don't like them, they can sue us."
Steve Cohen is executive Director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (WV CALA), a nonprofit citizen watchdog group interested in a variety of civil justice issues. Persons wanting more information can visit www.WVJusticeWatch.org or write to P.O. Box 127, Charleston, WV 25321.